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Applied Lessons

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I came to my first Twelve Step fellowship and got sober in 1983. G-d put a lovely woman in my life in my second year of recovery, and she entered both “the beverage program” and OA six months after we met. We’ve been married since 1986. I joined OA in 1990 and have been here ever since.

The topic of how OA has helped me work another recovery program is apropos because three and a half years ago, my wife informed me that my underearning and questionable money-handling decisions had so distressed her that she was giving me an ultimatum to get help or our relationship would change, and not for the better.

I was 62 years old, sober for over thirty-three years, and abstinent for over twenty. But where money was concerned, my life was terribly unmanageable, and I had lost the respect of the most important person in my life. I started attending Twelve Step meetings that focused on underearning, and things have steadily improved.

It wasn’t easy owning the “wreckage of my present” and having to scramble to save my marriage, so I want to share how the lessons I’ve learned in OA helped me work my new program mindfully and optimistically and helped me begin putting my life back together.

The new program asked me to track my time, work their Tools (many similar to OA’s), have an action partner, hold action meetings where I presented my finances and my approach to earning a living, and develop a workable plan to recover with God’s help.

It turned out I had to reinvent my whole business model so I could get paid weekly and not solely on commission. I also had to look at many fear-based behaviors that had left me isolated, unaccountable, and without any means to assess whether I was effective. Sound familiar?

Here’s how my OA experience helped me work my new recovery program:

  • I knew I’d only get out of my new program what I put in, so I made a decision to fully immerse myself, just as I would recommend to a newcomer in OA.
  • I decided to tell any OA sponsee who was on firm footing to get themselves a new sponsor. I still worked with two sponsees who were struggling because that’s exactly where I was in my new program. I figured this way I could still do OA service without it being an ego-feeding proposition.
  • I stopped making and taking OA phone calls during the workday, allowing more time to generate income.
  • I created a detailed daily action plan and began to set meaningful goals. I began to remember that my job used to be a labor of love and was completely consistent with my recovery principles.
  • I attended five meetings a week in my new program and began working the Steps with a sponsor.
  • I accepted service positions at my meetings, and when I was offered a position above the group level, I took it. I attended their world service conference and was elected to chair a committee. Unfortunately, it became too time-consuming, and I had to humble myself and step down because my individual recovery was more important than a service position—I learned that in OA too.
  • After completing their Steps, I started sponsoring others, taking them through those Steps. I’m now working through their Traditions with my sponsor.

Approaching my new program in this way, I believe, helped accelerate my recovery, and my income for the last three years increased to an amount well in excess of what it had been for the previous ten years. My wife says she no longer sees me in my office playing computer games or gabbing on the phone, and I’ve earned back her respect. I am no longer vague about time and money. I do “vision work,” which has enabled me to plan for a sustained prosperity that allows time for recreation, self-care, and continued advancement in both OA and my other program. I have regained my self-confidence and been able to face our frightening worldwide pandemic, optimistic that I can meet the challenges of the day with sincere enthusiasm and faith.

I doubt that I could have learned half as much from my other program in the time that it took if not for my many years in OA. OA has made me less fearful of change and helped me grow in the direction of the light.

— Neil R., Baltimore, Maryland USA

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